- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2001

The Bush administration's response to Tuesday's horrors has been somber and resolute. But there are indications that some in the administration are pushing a more legalistic response than is either correct or wise.
The president has, in his statements, made it clear that when America responds it will not distinguish between terrorists and those who finance and harbor them. Just a day later, though, he said that the administration was "far from selecting any particular targets for retaliation." "We have to build a case first," he said. Building a case is only the first step nations take when terrorists attack. The president is wise to be cautious, but should not let the lawyers take over where statesmen and military experts should pull the oar. This is not a case for the courts. The horrors that terrorism inflicted on America this week may have cost more lives than any single day's conflict in our nation's history, with the possible exception of battles such as Antietam, Gettysburg and Iwo Jima. Bringing individuals to justice is for individual crimes. What happened Tuesday was not an individual crime. It was an attack on our nation, its economy and its most symbolic institutions.
Tuesday did not happen without the help of nations that provide money, training, weapons and safe havens to terrorists. Any nation that finances, trains or arms terrorists to attack America has committed an act of war against us. Dealing with acts of war requires a national response. Our citizens have responded, as did the many courageous people who ran to not from the World Trade Center on Tuesday. We remember one guy in a blue T-shirt and a steel worker's hard hat walking quickly toward the site of the disaster. When a reporter asked him what he'd do when he got there, he said, "Whatever I can. Whatever they need me to do." When the chips are down, you can always find Americans like that. But there is only so much that individuals can do.
The best and most sober advice comes, unsurprisingly, from a man who has himself worn the uniform with distinction and has real combat experience. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Americans have already reached the only sensible conclusion: "We are at war, and they want a comprehensive response. They want us to act as if we are at war and we are going to do that diplomatically and militarily." As the grunts say, "hoooah" to that.
America is, indeed, at war at war for our survival as a nation and to preserve our way of life. If we fail to treat this as a war, we will suffer the loss of our personal freedoms and no longer be able to enjoy the peace and prosperity we have come to expect. Mr. Powell, like most professional military men, is no warmonger. But he recognizes that America's duty now is to finish the fight the terrorists and their friends started by attacking us. The other guy threw the first punch. Now it's our turn. Let's get on with it.

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